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June 2013 Archive for From the Editor

RSS By: Brian Grete, Pro Farmer

Pro Farmer Editor Brian Grete takes time to talk with Pro Farmer Members about some of the key issues in each week's Pro Farmer newsletter.

Most of the time, USDA says USDA's number is right

Jun 28, 2013

Chip Flory

From The Editor

June 28, 2013

Hello Pro Farmer Members!

It's always interesting dissecting USDA reports. Interesting... and frustrating.

One of the key indicators I was anticipating ahead of the report was how harvested corn acres compared to planted corn acres. Normally, the U.S. harvests about 92% of planted acres. Most of the difference is due to silage harvest, the rest is due to abandoned acres.

However, because the country only needs "so much" silage, the higher the planted acreage tally, the harvested acreage percentage should also climb as a smaller percentage of the crop is bound for the bunker or the bag.

In this morning's Acreage Report, USDA indicates a harvested acreage percentage of 91.5%. And, yes... that's a significant change. If the harvested acreage percentage would have been a typical 92%, total harvested acres would be about 450,000 more than estimated by USDA. That's nearly 70 million bu. of corn.

More importantly, the lower-than-normal harvested acreage percentage indicates the survey did pick up at least some of the problems across the Midwest. The "problems" referred to were indicated by the survey respondents. That means the report does include some corn acres that were planted, but have been washed-out, ponded-out, etc.-out and won't be harvested. As a matter of fact, it includes about 450,000 of acres that were planted to corn, but now won't be harvested. That might not be far from right. It looks like USDA's survey work did account for the washed-out areas.

Or did it?

If the corn harvested acreage percentage "makes sense," the soybean harvested acreage percentage should too. Right? Well... it doesn't.

In 2009, farmers harvested 98.6% of planted bean acres. In 2010, the harvested bean acreage percentage jumped to 98.98%. In 2011, just 98.2% of planted bean acres were harvested and 98.6% of 2012's planted bean acres were harvested.

In 2013, today's Acreage Report indicates a harvested acreage percentage of 98.98%... the same as in 2010 and higher than in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

This suggests none of the washed-out, ponded-out and etc.-out bean acres have been factored into the harvested bean acreage estimate. Most likely, that's because nearly 27% of the U.S. bean crop was unplanted when the survey was taken. Those intended bean acres are expected to be planted (many haven't been yet in northern Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota) and most are expected to be harvested. That's a stretch.

So... what difference does it make?

At the 98.98% harvested acreage percentage, NASS says we'll harvest 76.918 million acres of the 77.728 million planted to beans. So for every 0.1 point decline in the harvested acreage percentage, take 77,728 acres off the harvested acreage estimate. At 42 bu. per acre, that's about 3.265 million bushels of beans per 0.1 decline in the harvested acreage percentage.

If the harvested acreage percentage falls to 2011's 98.2% (0.7 percentage points below this year's estimate), take off 544,096 acres from harvested acres. At 42 bu. per acre, that's about 23 million bushels of beans. So to answer the question at the start of this section: It doesn't make much difference.

This is also one of the reasons USDA says it will resurvey for planted and harvested acreage intentions for soybeans in July. That data will be available for use in the August Crop Production Report.

No resurvey of corn acres

Unfortunately, there was no indication of a resurvey of corn plantings. That's because USDA says only 3.4% of the acres intended to be planted were left to be planted during the survey period.

3.4%? At 97.379 million acres, that's about 3.31 million acres that weren't planted in the first two weeks of June... but that were intended to be planted... and harvested. That's a significant number and many of those acres are in Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota. Those acres represent at least 500 million bushels of corn... and today's report says those acres were planted.

Some were... many weren't. In my opinion, it still makes sense to work with a planted corn acreage estimate of 95.0-95.3 million acres. But we won't. We'll work with USDA's number because USDA determines which number is right -- and most of the time, USDA says USDA's number is right.

And without a resurvey of corn planted acres, this is a number we'll likely have to live with until the October Crop Production Report. That's the first real chance for USDA's NASS to tap into certified acreage data from the FSA. That certified acreage doesn't "set" the NASS estimate, but it can be another important data point in the acreage estimate.

That's it for now...

I'm going to be off next week to enjoy some time with family and friends. I hope to see many of you at the Leading Edge Conference July 8-9!

Follow me on Twitter at @ChipFlory

To join Pro Farmer, click here!

On average... my area might be average.

Jun 21, 2013

Chip Flory

From The Editor

June 21, 2013

Hello Pro Farmer Members!

Quick conversation today... plenty left to do this afternoon!

You all know by now how I feel about this year's corn and soybean crops. I'm trying not to get too negative on yields while also trying to be realistic. But when I got a message today from a guy in Butler Co., Iowa, that he finished planting the last 200 acres of CORN yesterday, it was like punch in the gut. June 20 and still planting corn in northern Iowa... bummer.

Twitter has been a lot of help in my effort to avoid getting too negative on corn yield potential. It's helpful to see pictures of normally-developing corn and soybean crops.

What isn't helpful is seeing the pictures from North Dakota after last night's storm rolled through. Some of the corn in the state that did get planted went from "green to gone" after the hail rolled through.

Another thing that isn't helpful is driving from home to work and back every day. I'm not saying the crops around here are terrible (some are), but they're far from what I normally see at this time of the year. The tough part is realizing that crop conditions in my immediate area are not completely representative of the whole Corn Belt. Of course, they just might be representative with some crop conditions better than I'm seeing here and some worse.

On average... my area might be average.

And that's scary.


That's it for now...


Follow me on Twitter at @ChipFlory

To join Pro Farmer, click here!

How much yield penalty for late-planted beans?

Jun 14, 2013

Chip Flory

From The Editor

June 14, 2013

Hello Pro Farmer Members!

Be sure to check the Crop Tour web page. Our crop reporters from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska updated their reports this week!

Remember last year? (Ha! Of course you do...) The corn crop turned out about as we expected after the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour, but the bean crop beat our crop estimate. The reason: Bean seed size. A rain in the fourth week of August gave the crop an extra kick and added yield by building a bigger bean.

That was true for the beans you sold... and it's true for the beans you've bought and stuck back in the ground for the 2013 crop. And now that it's late, you should be seeding at an even higher rate and the bigger beans are making the seed a little more costly than in a normal year. It's not a huge increase in costs, but it is another consideration when planting beans this late.

According to data from the University of Minnesota, late-planting of soybeans does carry a significant yield penalty. Beans planted by May 10 have 100% of yield potential. Beans planted on May 20 have about 97% of yield potential. If beans aren't planted until May 30, Minnesota growers are looking at yield potential of about 91% of maximum. Now it starts to get serious - beans not planted until June 10 have yield potential of 82% of maximum. If beans don't get planted until June 20, Minnesota growers would be planting beans with about 70% of yield potential.

Those late-planting yield penalties, however, assume at least average growing conditions. Poor growing conditions can trim even more off the yield potential.

Several PF Members have reported "damping-off" of soybeans this spring. Wet, cool conditions contribute to early seedling death shortly after plants emerge. That, however, isn't a major concern, unless of course a high percentage of the plants are damping off. Bean plants have a remarkable ability to recover and will grow to the space provided. Early planted beans with lots of space will form a lot of nodes and branches to carry a lot of pods.

Beans planted late won't "bush-out" like earlier planted beans and don't have nearly the number of nodes. For those that don't grow beans, nodes are darn important on a bean plant - that's where branches form, but it's also where pods form. The more the nodes on a plant, the greater the opportunity for the plant to form pods. Because late-planted beans don't form as many nodes, agronomists recommend increasing the seeding rate at this time of the year. That gives you a chance to have fewer nodes per plant, but the same number of nodes per acre by having more plants per acre.

That's it for now...

 We can always use more farmers to come on the Midwest Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour to provide much-needed perspective on crop conditions we see while on the road. If you've been thinking about coming on Tour, this is a great year to start! Drop me an e-mail and I'll make sure you get all the info you need to come along this year.

Follow me on Twitter at @ChipFlory

To join Pro Farmer, click here!

There's a reason yield maps sold A LOT of tile

Jun 07, 2013

Chip Flory

From The Editor

June 7, 2013

Hello Pro Farmer Members!

I'll admit... I was shocked when I looked at the table from Iowa State University that estimates the impact of late-planting on corn yields. Corn planted today at 35,000 population through June 15 in Iowa would have just 54% of its maximum yield potential. That's roughly equal to corn planted May 5-15 at just 10,000 plants per acre. Scary stuff... and that help makes it exceptionally clear why many growers consider a Prevented Plant claim to be their best option at this time. Making the PP claim even more attractive is that many growers carry 80% or even 85% Revenue Protection, rather than the 75% RP many are using in examples.

This is also the first time for many (almost all) Iowa corn growers to consider PP... and they're impressed by the financial certainty the PP claim provides. Potential revenue from switching to soybeans might be close in revenue, but it doesn't have the financial certainty that a PP claim does. That's making it very attractive to many growers that are trying to move bean seed from the tender to the dirt, but waterlogged fields are making it impossible to do!

That was one of my learning experiences this week... here's another: Lower-quality soils in the wettest areas of the Midwest look like they'll perform better than the high-quality soils. It kind of makes sense... lower-quality soils have lower water-holding capacity and, therefore, are draining better than thick, black dirt.

And it's very clear where tile lines are this year. Soils above and close to tile lines drain more quickly than points furthest way from the tiles. Over and near tiles, corn plants are developing much more quickly than plants furthest away from tiles. But, there's plenty of people that assume the later-developing corn will catch up and yield won't be hurt "that bad."

If the corn will "catch up," then why were yield monitors and yield mapping the BEST tile-selling campaign EVER for the drainage industry!?!

When yield monitors were first put on combines and started collecting data from every inch of fields, and that data was digitally mapped for the first time, growers started noticing streaks of higher yields alternating with areas of lower yields. Most figured it out right away... others had to make a trip to the field.

The higher-yield streaks were the areas above and near tile lines... lower yielding areas were the spaces between tile line. The result? More tile! Instead of tile every 120-foot across a field, most cut it in half by dropping in another line down the middle. Some cut it even further by dropping two evenly spaced lines in the 120-foot space. If they already had a line every 60-foot, some even cut that in half.

It's hard telling how many bushels were lost in the decades before the tile explosion... which is why we can EASILY say we've lost more bushels to too much water than we have to drought over the last several decades. You've got to move the water (not moisture) away from the root zone, but even the doubled and tripled amount of tile in the country compared to 20 years ago isn't enough to move water from record high April-May rainfall totals in Iowa.

So... while the corn between the tile lines this year that is clearly behind corn over and near tile lines right now might appear to catch up, I'll bet you a dollar right now the yield maps will show the tile-line yield streaks this fall.

Here's another thing I learned this week: Corn started tasseling in the Gulf states this week. A friend in Mississippi called to let me know. The crop there was generally planted on time, and then it started to rain. Corn got off to a quick start, and actually grew too quickly to let some guys into the field to sidedress nitrogen. One of this friend's neighbors was actually flying on urea and spreading 100 lbs. per acre over chest-high corn. (I guess he doesn't have access to a Hi-Boy!)

Another one: Anhydrous applicators might end up being an important tillage tool this spring. I knew that saturated soils are devoid of oxygen and no oxygen means no root growth or nutrient up-take. Some are considering using the anhydrous knives to open up soil to air it out -- well, actually air it IN. They say the knife is the perfect tool to use because a field cultivator might clip roots that are growing horizontally rather than down.

That's it for now...

 Have a great weekend!

Follow me on Twitter at @ChipFlory

To join Pro Farmer, click here!

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